Dear Zellers, je suis désolé.
It appears Target, commonly referred to as “Tar-jay” by all Canadians, (in our best outrageous French Accents) missed the bullseye with “Great White North” customers.
As announced, Target revealed after only two years of business in Canada they would discontinue operations, resulting in seventeen thousand personnel becoming unemployed, while leaving unanswered questions and unclaimed leases to over one hundred previous Zellers stores… each hurriedly retrofitted for the expectation of “ginormous” profits.
When Target first publicized opening in Canada, I was PUMPED.
Ok, a bit more than pumped. My reaction was comparable to that of Buddy the Elf, discovering Santa was on his way (he knows him).
I love shopping at Target in the States. Great prices, great brand names AND big red shopping carts with big ol’ cup holders for your grande overly-priced mediocre coffee… which we all know and love.
HOWEVER, Target Canada painted a much different picture. As much as I do enjoy shopping at Target, there have always been noticeable differences between its American stores… mainly layout, lack of product and higher prices.
I’ve been sitting here trying to pinpoint my exact feelings on this major announcement and decided to do a little digging/ research about the store Target replaced: Zellers.
For those unfamiliar with the name Zellers, it was an all-Canadian, affordable “Retailer to Thrifty Canadians” chain store, founded by Walter P. Zeller.
In 1931, Zellers Limited purchased U.S. stores, Schulte-United Limited and converted the properties into Zellers retails. This transaction was considered economically critical, and creating a new Canadian company provided optimism in a time of the depression.
My, my, doesn’t this sound familiar?
In comparing the two stores, I realized there is no comparison. Perhaps the general idea of Target becoming the new “Zellers” was credible on paper, but in reality, Target Canada was a far cry from an equivalent, or even an equivalent to itself in the states.
Maybe Target should have taken some notes? Researched? Asked themselves: “what can we bring to our Canadian customers?”
For me, the answer is simple. If Target were as clever as I assumed, they would have investigated the ongoing success of Zellers and its popularity among Canadians (prior to the infestation of Wal Mart, ultimately causing Zeller’s demise).
Let’s compare Zeller’s mottos and methods to that of Target:
As quoted by Mr. Walter Zeller from The Ottawa Journal – 1931:
In building our new company, one important thought has been borne in mind – buying the public today is more discriminating and thrifty than ever before. It knows and demands style merchandize of good quality. It insists on popular prices.”
Prices were nowhere comparable to the prices Canadians expected, based on shopping in American stores. Prices were higher and “deals” weren’t exactly deals.
As quoted by Mr. Walter Zeller from The Ottawa Journal – 1931:
Store merchandising is on a scientific basis today, and it is a well-known axiom that where there is demand, supply is sure to follow.”
It’s a well-known axiom, Target stores across Canada have lacked merchandise by displaying empty shelves (apparently on purpose) in accordance with Target’s head office planogram.
Canadian customers became fed up. After multiple trips to Target, Canadians discovered products they were looking for were still unavailable. Target wondered why they were losing customers? What’s the old saying? “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
The Ottawa Journal – December, 1931:
Faith in Canada
Mr. Zeller’s faith in Canada’s quick recovery from its present state of business depression is coupled with a sound knowledge of economic conditions. He subscribes to the belief, entertained by many prominent economists and business men, that Canada is a coming country – that her great and unexploited natural resources and the sturdy spirit of her people mark her for expansion.”
But as a Canadian who has availed himself of many opportunities to study other countries, I place my faith in Canada, and as a business man I place my faith in the men I have gathered around me, who will make up the Zeller’s organization.” – Walter Zeller
Lack of Faith in Canadians. Prior to stores opening, Target declared all Zellers employees (regardless of their years of service or job familiarity) would be dismissed and required to reapply for a position within the new company. Ideas and suggestions brought forward by Canadian Managers and staff (in an attempt to better the company and the customer’s opinion) were disregarded and American Target ideals claimed superiority.
As a child, I have great memories of Zellers, it was fun and affordable. Many of us had the plush toy, Zeddy Bear growing up, along with memories of enjoyable school field trips to Zellers for Breakfast with Santa. Zellers also served many of us well into our high school years, offering part-time jobs while also being our one stop shop for our all Canadian Olympic wear.
Let’s be perfectly honest. In the last few years of Zellers being open, the store became a bit of a dive. Shelves were dusty, the stores were messy, floor tiles were chipped (if not missing), and displays lacked luster.
Nevertheless, Zellers provided Canadians with a well stocked supply of reasonably priced household items, clothing and groceries. Zellers stores valued not only their customers, but also their employees. Although Zellers may have never been the most “fashionable” place to shop, its assortment of goods provided customers with incentive to return.
I hadn’t given Zellers a second thought until Target Canada’s announcement of closing. From what I’ve discovered, I now know I won’t miss Target Canada. I feel a pang of regret the more I reflect on this situation. As Canadians we sold out.
We sold out our own, welcoming the giant Smiley Corporation of Wal Mart, contributing to the end of our dear Canadian Zellers Stores.
Dear Zellers, je suis désolé (I am sorry).
With Target’s departure perhaps Canadians have said “enough”.
We’ve decided the Target motto “Expect more. Pay Less” never applied to us, nor will it ever.
Somewhere, deep down in our hearts we just know, “The Lowest Price is the Law”.
Au Revoir, Tar-Jay.